Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Mitchell, Mary N.

Second Advisor

Atkinson, Connie

Third Advisor

Powers, Madelon


This thesis examines cultivation in the lives of Sarah and Columbia Bennett between the years 1852 and 1874. The Bennett women's letters convey an intimate sense of the agro-economic preoccupations (and gardening pleasures) of these slave-owning white women, and the centrality of cultivation in mid-nineteenth-century rural Louisiana within a landscape of country stores, plantations, and people. As the lives of the Bennett women illustrate, white women's gardening knowledge and practice formed a cornerstone of central Louisiana society. The Bennett women's gardening knowledge and skill were primary components in the creation of a self-sustaining plantation household. By cultivating produce and other foodstuffs for consumption, the Bennett women made possible the family's participation in the lucrative market for cotton and other cash crops, a market that also tied their household to plantation economies elsewhere in the transatlantic world.


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